IndustryNet Blog

Mass. manufacturing is on the decline as Boston industrial jobs thrive

Posted by IndustryNet on Monday, November 6, 2017

Boston IndustrialAccording to new data collected this week by IndustryNet, industrial employment in Massachusetts flatlined for yet another year, inching down a half percent, or by 2,180 jobs over the past twelve months.

High business costs, global competition, and a strong dollar continue to plague some of the Massachusetts' more traditional sectors, while industries representative of the state’s focus on tech and innovation, are on the rise.

This has contributed to a historic 5.6% surge in real GDP for the state in the third quarter. Boston industrial jobs rose 7% over the past year, according to IndustryNet data.

This post will explore major trends in Mass. manufacturing, delving into city, county, and regional data collected by IndustryNet. We’ll also examine some of the major announcements over the past several years, and assess the state’s outlook in light of new Trump administration policies.

Mass. manufacturing year in review

Industrial companies in Massachusetts shed 2,182 jobs between August 2016 and August 2017, or a half percent loss.

Job losses were led by the state’s industrial machinery sector, which shed 4.2% of its workforce, and remains Massachusetts’ top sector by number of industrial jobs. Additional losses were felt in sectors most vulnerable to global competition and included spread stone/clay/glass, down 9.2%; rubber/plastics, down 5.4%; textiles/apparel, down 4.6%; transportation equipment, down 4.4%.

Some industries in Massachusetts posted significant increases, including a 1.8% jobs increase in the medical instruments/related products sector. Employment rose 1.7% in both the chemical and fabricated metals industries, and rose 1% in food processing.

Regionally, employment losses were mainly seen in the state’s Central region, which shed 1% of its jobs and represents the largest share of the state’s industrial jobs, with 172,038 workers. Manufacturing jobs fell 1.5% in Western Massachusetts and inched down a half percent in the state’s Southeast region.BostonIndustrialJobs

These losses were offset by a half percent gain in Northeast Massachusetts, largely due to continued growth in Boston industrial jobs.

Boston added another 7% to its industrial workforce, as it continues to foster innovative enterprises.

With a workforce unparalleled in other cities and its abundance of capital funding, Boston has firmly established itself as an innovation and biotech hub, drawing a number of high-tech enterprises to the region.

According to IndustryNet data, industrial employment in the city has surged by a third over the past five years.

This is in line with a general trend that has occurred in the state for many years, with industrial growth shifting to Boston, leaving behind many of the state’s traditionally strong industries and regions.

Next, we’ll take a look at some of the major developments in Massachusetts’ industrial sector following the recession.

Mass. manufacturing: A look back


A decade ago, Massachusetts was home to 10,128 industrial companies employing 408,607. Those numbers declined precipitously during the recession, and by August of 2010 the number of companies dwindled to 8,847 and the workforce shrank to 370,912.

In August 2010, electronics manufacturing was Massachusetts’ top sector by industrial employment, but had fallen significantly between 2009 and 2010 following the closure of Analog Devices Inc’s Cambridge plant, and layoffs at Bose Corp. Sectors reliant on the housing industry such as furniture/fixture and lumber/wood products also suffered sharp decline.

In this year, however, we also started to see the beginnings of growth in the state’s more high-tech industries with the establishment of Tyco Flow Control’s Advanced Nuclear Testing & Development facility in Mansfield; the opening of Nuclea Biotechnologies’ Nuclea Genomics Center in Pittsfield; and the opening of a new production line at Fusion Optix in Woburn. TPI Composites opened a wind blade facility in Fall River, and Terrafugia Inc. announced plans to begin production of its Roadable Aircraft or “Flying Car.”


In this year, Massachusetts began to recover from the recession, with employment inching up a half percent. Innovation continued to fuel job growth, especially in emerging “green” industries, with the establishment of AFL’s new R&D facility in Lowell and Agreen Energy’s biogas-fired power plant in Rutland. In addition, Solectria Renewables expanded their PV inverter factory in Lawrence.

Losses in the state’s more traditional sectors continued, however with rubber/plastics down 5.6% following the closures of Sonoco Products’ packaging plant in Devens, and Solo Cup’s facility in North Andover. Paper products declined 1.6%, following the closure of a National Envelope facility in Worcester.

Boston’s industrial employment inched up 1.3% in the city’s first gain in several years.


Employment mainly flatlined in this year, dipping by just 942 jobs. Bright spots for the state include the opening of ThermoFisher Scientific’s new medical device manufacturing plant in Tewksbury; the establishment of the Kringle Candle Company’s new candlemaking facility in Bernardston; the expansion of Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics’ solar film plant in Worcester; and the opening of a TigerPress printing facility in Longmeadow.

Paper products continued to fall, due partially to the closure of Noarampac’s box plant in Leominster, as did textiles; fabricated metals; stone/clay/glass and rubber/plastics.

The state’s growing medical instruments sector added jobs, up 2.3%, while the electronics sector stabilized after several years of precipitous losses.


Industrial employment in Massachusetts remained virtually unchanged over the year, inching down a half percent. The fledgling solar industry continued to be hit by global competition, taking down Lowell-based solar film manufacturer Konarka Technologies, Boston-based Satcon Technology Corp., and Devens-based Evergreen Solar.

However, we also saw the opening of solar wafer manufacturer 1336 Technologies in Bedford. There was also the opening of Columbia Tech in Westborough; the expansion of a Bristol-Myers Squibb biologics plant in Devens; and MuCell Extrusion’s expansion of its fluid hardware assembly plant.


Massachusetts added about 1,000 industrial jobs during this survey period, helped by strong gains in the pharmaceutical industry. Boston added a significant number of jobs, up 7.7% over the year. This was the year Apple and GT Advance Technologies announced plans to open a sapphire plant in Salem, a major boon to the state’s focus on advanced manufacturing. That plant was soon shuttered, however.

Manufacturing locations announcing closures included Avery Dennison’s paper plant in Chicopee; lighting manufacturer Lightolier in Wilmington; and Victor Innovative Textiles’ Fall River facility.


Over this year, Massachusetts’ workforce inched down about a third of a percent. Losses were led by the electronics industry, down 4.6% following Intel’s massive factory in Hudson and the shuttering of Cobham Electronics Systems in Lowell.

But this was also the year jobs in Northeast Mass. climbed 2%, and Boston industrial jobs skyrocketed 6.3%, overtaking other major Boston Industrialindustrial cities to rank as the state’s top city by number of industrial jobs.

Innovation continued to drive growth in the state’s industrial sector. Agencies such as UMass Lowell’s innovation hub and the Medical Device Development Center helped boost a growing medical devices sector, with jobs in that industry up 1%.

The state’s ailing paper products industry saw some relief with the opening of Cenevo’s paper products plant in Chicopee; as well as Mohawk’s envelope plant in South Cadley. China Railway Rolling Stock Corp. unveiled plans to establish a facility in Springfield for the production of train cars for Boston’s subway.

CRRC has now nearly completed that railcar plant, and plans to begin production in the coming months


For yet another year Massachusetts’ industrial employment remained virtually unchanged, edging down by about 300 jobs. The Boston area continued to thrive, however, with IndustryNet recording a 1.8% increase in Boston industrial jobs, and a 4.8% increase for Suffolk County jobs.

Multiple companies announced new operations over the year. Gingko Bioworks established the world’s largest biologics foundry in Boston; Bristol-Myers Squibb expanded its biologics plant in Devens; U.K. based Applied Photophysics, opened its first U.S. plant in Beverly; and G.E. Healthcare, made plans to hire 500 workers at its newly-opened pharmaceutical facility in Marlborough.

These announcements were clouded by the closures of Sunny Delight’s juice plant in Littleton; General Electric’s valve factory in Avon; and industrial equipment manufacturer Rodney Hunt in Orange.


Over this past year, losses continued at a sharper rate that reported in previous years. The state was hit with layoffs at Textron; Raytheon; Kronos; Ariad Pharmaceuticals, and others. In addition, Whole Foods closed its processing facility in Everett; Menck USA closed it window factory in Chicopee; and Panasonic shuttered its solar wafer plant in Salem.

Currently the state accounts for 7,561 industrial companies employing 366,570. The pattern of industrial job growth shifting to the Northeast continued, with Boston industrial employment rising 7%.

Bright spots for the state included roofing maker Duro-Last’s plans to establish a custom fabrication plant in Ludlow; and the establishment of medical device maker Avedros’s facility in Burlington. Boston saw the opening of Bully Boy Distilleries and Whitson’s new culinary production center, while pharma company Moderna opened a clinical manufacturing facility in Norwood, a suburb of Boston. Biomanufacturing company Mustang Bio, established a new CAR T cell therapy manufacturing facility in Worcester.

What's ahead for Masssachusetts manufacturing

Massachusetts’ industrial landscape is unusual in the sense that the state’s productivity levels have never been higher and are generally 20% higher than the national average, despite stagnating employment. The state’s high industrial output is a product of its focus on technology and innovation, particularly in the Boston area. Automation is part of that focus, and though automation serves to boost productivity, it doesn’t always translate to increased jobs.

Given this, the Trump administration efforts to increase manufacturing employment may not be as applicable in a state where automation thrives and places like Boston Dynamics; Rethink Robotics; and MRSI Systems are churning out robots for a number of factories -- even smaller operations like furniture maker Moduform, which recently integrated robotics into its manufacturing process after repeated issues with finding workers.BostonIndustrial

Other changes that may have an effect on Massachusetts’ industrial climate going forward include the new administration’s targeting of pharmaceutical prices, which may spur more job cuts in an industry already prone to layoffs and mergers.

On the other hand, Trump’s vow to ease the process of regulatory approval for pharmaceutical companies should help drugmakers get their products to market faster and boost production.

Contrary to its strong emphasis on reviving American manufacturing, the new Administration has also proposed significant cuts to many manufacturing programs, including the complete defunding of the Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Extension Partnerships, as well as a 70% budget cut to a nationwide network of Manufacturing USA innovation hubs, a Massachusetts site among them.

Funding for some worker training programs are also on the chopping block, though this is not as likely to affect Massachusetts as much as states with serious skills gaps.

The proposed tax cuts laid out by the administration, however, could represent a benefit to manufacturers already struggling with high business costs – particularly in Massachusetts.

And despite the proposed cuts to many manufacturing programs, Mass. manufacturing should continue maintain its reputation as a thriving center for innovation, and appeal to a variety of enterprises. Massachusetts recently took CNBC’s top spot for the quality of its workforce – a factor that has become more and more important for today’s advanced manufacturing.

Mass. manufacturing: the top five

Massachusetts boasts a diverse industrial sector, with strongholds in pharmaceuticals, medical instruments, as well as electronics and industrial machinery. Here are the state’s top industries, regions and cities by number of manufacturing jobs, as well as its top employers, based on IndustryNet data.

Leading Massachusetts Industries by Employment:

16% Industrial machinery and equipment
14% Instruments and related products
13% Electronic and other electric equipment
10% Printing and publishing
8% Fabricated metal products

Largest Massachusetts Manufacturers by Employees:

EMC Corp. (Hopkinton) - 10,000
Raytheon Co. (Andover) - 4,500
Gillette Co., The (South Boston) - 3,000
EBSCO Information Technologies, Inc. (Ipswich) - 3,000
Biogen, Inc. (Cambridge) - 3,000

Massachusetts Counties with the most industrial jobs:

Middlesex - 145,222
Essex - 51,992
Worcester - 50,390
Bristol - 36,356
Norfolk - 34,223

Massachusetts Cities with the most industrial jobs:

Boston – 14,087
Andover – 12,511
Cambridge – 12,123
Hopkinton – 10,912
Waltham – 10,465

For more information on Massachusetts industrial companies

MNI’s extensive manufacturing data powers IndustryNet, an industrial marketplace that connects buyers with suppliers. IndustryNet allows users to search and source more than ten thousand types of products, parts, supplies, and services for free. IndustryNet® lists every U.S. manufacturer plus thousands of wholesalers & distributors and industrial service providers. To connect with industrial suppliers in Massachusetts and across the U.S., start your free search on IndustryNet. Or, to access detailed profiles of Massachusetts 7,840 industrial companies and their 23,596 executives, learn more about IndustryNet’s database subscription.












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